By MG Calla Victoria
Photo by Leo Watermeier
What to do when you have a lot of acreage to cover and you don’t want to do a lot of maintenance? The most cost effective thing to do is to install a wild flower meadow. Lots of urban planners are embracing wildflower meadows because they solve many problems that arise in laying out urban areas. Wildflower meadows provide waves of color and beauty, they are drought tolerant so they conserve water as well as aid in drainage, they protect the soil, provide habitats and food for insects; and are great fun for romping through. If you have never been in a wildflower meadow you saw one if you saw the movie The Color Purple. In the very last scene of the movie where everyone was in Miss Celie’s front yard, that entire yard was a wildflower meadow. And when Celie and Nettie were running toward each other they were running through a wildflower meadows with all of those beautiful colors. The best scene in the movie!
New Orleans has a few wildflower meadow installations, several in City Park and the newest wildflower meadow installation is along the Lafitte Greenway in Mid City. The Greenway is a 2.6 mile walking/biking linear park in the heart of New Orleans. The technicolor carpet of blooms add folly to the pedestrian and biking experience.
Wildflower mixes consist of native flowering plant material and attract all of the wonderful pollinators like bees and butterflies; also native wildflower meadows advance sustainable storm water management. Installing a wildflower meadow works very well in large urban sprawls but can work in a section of your garden. First and foremost research wildflower seed mixes that are native to your zone. Then till the soil really well, get rid of all of the weeds, toss the seeds and let nature do the rest.
Daniel Preziosi, horticulture manager for New Orleans City Park, added these wildflower meadow tips in a recent article on wildflower meadows:
1. Mix the seed with damp sand, peat moss or vermiculite to help prevent clumping and to provide even distribution.
2. Rake the seed in lightly being careful not to bury the seed too deeply. Seed should be planted no more than a quarter-inch deep. During germination be sure to keep the soil moist.
3. Seedling should start to appear in two to three weeks, and you should see your first flowers in about six to 10 weeks.
4. Do not fertilize because fertilizers will encourage more foliage and less blooms.
5. If you aren’t sure what you are looking for, plant some of your seed mix in a container and use that to compare to what grows in the seedbed.
This a guide to making seed balls for wildflowers and other seeds:
This site has a detailed guide to growing wildflowers and a comprehensive list of native plants:
And finally, it is well worth your time to explore the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s website. wildflower.org
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and enjoy the beautiful flowers!